The best way to generate online reviews for your business is to first devise a strategy of how to do just that. Which websites will you be using and why? How will you respond to reviews, how often will you respond, and how will you use these sites to communicate with your customers? Your strategy will be even more effective if it is integrated with the company’s marketing program.
According to a WebPunch study, 41% of consumers who are looking for a local business go to online review sites like Google, Facebook, and Angie’s List. About 37% of people rely on personal recommendations or word-of-mouth and 27% of people go straight to the company’s website when making a purchasing decision.
Choosing which review sites to use can be a daunting task. There are countless sites where people can leave online reviews, but not all of them are created equal. Some have better visibility, some are focused toward a particular industry, and others may require that you spend time setting up a profile. Start by focusing on a few platforms that make sense for your business.
We suggest concentrating your efforts on no more than four review sites at a time. We also think it’s good to swap out sites so you get a good review mix. Make sure your listing is up-to-date and maintained on all sites. Review sites can be a great tool to use for communicating with your customers and to regularly respond to positive and negative reviews. You can also post information or insights about the company and its products or services.
Here are some platforms to consider when developing a strategy to generate online feedback for your business:
GOOGLE: This household name has 2.2 billion active users, and you can list your business there for free. 41% of WebPunch reviews are generated on this site and 47% of people seeking out local businesses use Google as well. Companies must have five online reviews—positive or negative—before customers can rate it with a 5-star system. That being said, we suggest targeting Google and only Google until you get that star-rating, then start adding other sites. Regularly respond to both positive and negative reviews—this has increasingly become a ranking factor for Google, as well as other review sites.
More on Google: Google ranks businesses based on several criteria. First, put in the effort to ensure that your business listing is up-to-date and relevant. It’s important to remember that in order for your business to have a star-rating system, it must first have at least five reviews. On-page signals like keywords in titles, domain authority and use of NAP (Name, Address, Phone) account for 20% of rankings. Review quantity, diversity, and velocity account for 8.4%. Google algorithms also calculate rankings based on how often the business responds to both positive and negative reviews—one more thing that should be incorporated into your company’s overall review strategy. What about Google+? We used to be big fans of Google+, but since it switched things up and doesn’t allow user reviews to be posted anymore, we’ve moved on. Instead, we're keeping our eyes on Google Maps where people can post reviews. This is just one example of the constantly evolving landscape of Google’s rules and procedures regarding business listings and online reviews. Stay tuned to the WebPunch newswire because we’ve got our finger on that pulse. This article on Moz.com breaks down the different factors that Google uses to rank a business.
ANGIE'S LIST: This online marketplace is where people go to find vetted home-services providers. They require businesses to have at least one review on their profile before they will show up in search results. If Angie’s List fits into your strategy, we suggest focusing on getting that one review (after getting the five reviews on Google, of course.) Once you get your one review, begin integrating another site.
More on Angie’s List: In 2013, the online marketplace had 3.2 million paid members, and after twenty years in operation, the site recently offered consumer memberships for free. That means even more customers will be jumping on the band wagon, which means more exposure for the businesses who pay to advertise their services. However, businesses still do need to pay. The new platform doesn’t send email notifications to a business representative when it gets a review and this is something that WebPunch has been investigating. We called Angie’s List for the scoop and they told us that they don’t see this changing anytime soon. Boo on them for this feature.
NEXTDOOR APP: Nextdoor is a communication app that allows people to connect and share information with other residents in their immediate neighborhoods. Your business will only show up as a suggested business if a user first recommends it. Like Google and Angie’s List, if you want to target Nextdoor, focus on getting that recommendation so that you will be added to the list of suggested businesses. Once you’ve achieved that, move on to Facebook, Yelp, or Angie’s List, depending on the order your company has chosen as part of its strategy.
More about Nextdoor: The app can be used as a great way to raise awareness about your business. Do be careful though, and read up on the app’s policy. Owners and operators can claim a business page on the app, but self-promotion is usually looked down upon. One of the most organic ways to get noticed on Nextdoor is to get people talking about your business. It is not uncommon for someone to send out a general request for, say, a roofing contractor in the area and get multiple responses from community residents about someone they trust—that’s where you want be. At the same time, users also post general comments about the exceptional experience they had with a business in the neighborhood—this is also where you want to be. Conversely, users are not afraid to talk about how awful their experience with a company was—you don’t want to be there.
FACEBOOK: Ah yes, what would we ever do with our free-time if we didn't have Facebook? It’s almost caught up to Google, reporting 1.79 billion users at the end of 2016; a number that has consistently grown since 2008. It is second to Google for number of reviews posted, so it should definitely not be ignored as part of your review strategy. A lot of positive reviews end up on Facebook (we’re not sure exactly why, except that reviewers’ friends can see what they write—it’s a very intimate platform. Or maybe it’s all the baby animal videos putting people in good moods.) Spend some time with Facebook once you’ve gotten the other sites down. It doesn’t have any prerequisites for new users. All you have to do is create a profile, personalize it and start reaching out.
More about Facebook: Facebook was the ground-level of social-media marketing. Now your business is expected to have it. Information on this sucker spreads like wildfire. Friends are posting and reposting status updates, pictures and videos. And people are creating conversations around topics, brands, reviews, services, and products. At the same time, businesses, organizations, and political figures are connecting and talking as well. Facebook is free for businesses to sign-up with. Just create an account with a username and password, throw a logo on the page with some pictures as well as your business details like location, hours, website, phone number, etc. Then you can start posting entertaining or profound things for your customers to read. The great thing about Facebook is that you have almost unlimited freedom in how you can push your brand. Offer free stuff, introduce a new employee, promote a product or service, ask the community for input, tell a joke, post a gif, launch a campaign, or celebrate a holiday. Unfortunately, Facebook reviews don’t show up on a Google search page (we are still waiting for this), but it is still a great place for users to post reviews. A person’s friends will see their Facebook reviews and may even be tagged in them; people visiting the company’s Facebook page will see the reviews too—the opportunities are endless. If you need somewhere to start, check out the WebPunch page out and go from there (yes, yes, a shameless plug but also a very helpful tool).
Yelp: Talk about harsh critics. The site has 142 million active users, a far cry from the giants of Facebook and Google, but that’s because it’s strictly a feedback site. Businesses can easily set up a profile with their basic business details and wait for the reviews to roll in. Be forewarned, though, Yelp is the #1 site for negative reviews—all the more reason to hustle positive reviews here. People are not afraid to go all-out about their crummy time at Papa Joe’s Pizzaria (totally made-up name). And it’s extremely difficult to get negative reviews taken down (same goes for Google and Facebook). However, the WebPunch Reputation Defenders have had great luck getting some reviews taken down by citing review guidelines when a user has clearly violated them. On the plus side, business owners and managers can respond to reviews and offer incentives to turn a one-star review into five-stars.
Start with these. There’s plenty of other sites outside of these five to explore, but to avoid becoming overwhelmed—which you my already be—pick four of these that best fit your business. Work with one review site at a time and incorporporate them into your overall review strategy, which should complement your marketing plan. Online reviews and feedback are becoming necessary limbs of a company’s marketing strategy, as brand-master Edward Leaman talked about in his guest blog article last week. Use these platforms as tools to communicate and to engage your customer base. Use them for feedback so you can continue to grow your business in ways that will WOW your community.